Last year, Mr. Bolsonaro’s government took a pass on Pfizer’s offer of tens of millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. Later, the president celebrated setbacks in clinical trials for CoronaVac, the Chinese-made vaccine that Brazil came to largely rely on, and joked that pharmaceutical companies would not be held responsible if people who got newly developed vaccines turned into alligators.
“The government initially dismissed the threat of the pandemic, then the need for preventive measures, and then goes against science by promoting miracle cures,” said Natália Pasternak, a microbiologist in São Paulo. “That confuses the population, which means people felt safe going out in the street.”
Terezinha Backes, a 63-year-old retired shoemaker living in a municipality on the outskirts of Porto Alegre, had been exceedingly careful over the past year, venturing out only when necessary, said her nephew, Henrique Machado.
But her 44-year-old son, a security guard tasked with taking the temperature of people entering a medical facility, appears to have brought the virus home early this month.
Ms. Backes, who had been in good health, was taken to a hospital on March 13 after she began having trouble breathing. With no beds to spare, she was treated with oxygen and an IV in the hallway of an overflowing wing. She died three days later.
“My aunt was not given the right to fight for her life,” said Mr. Machado, 29, a pharmacist. “She was left in a hallway.”